Wednesday 19 April 2023

E-an-na - Alveolar (2023)

Country: Romania
Style: Folk Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 10 Mar 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | TikTok | YouTube

Yeah, I've reviewed one folk metal album already this week and I try to keep things mixed up but, while that's an entirely apt descriptor for Adavänt, it's only a starting point for E-an-na, who don't sound like anybody else in any genre of music. I had a blast with their debut album, Nesfârşite, in 2019 and was eager to jump onto this follow-up. I'm reviewing after Lordi entirely by accident, with the band actually from Transylvania and another Eurovision hopeful—they were a finalist in 2022 in the Romanian selection contest, Selecția Națională. They sound as much like Lordi as Adavänt, which is not much at all. They don't even sound like Bucovina, who are what you might be thinking of if I say Romanian folk metal band.

While they don't sound like any other folk metal band, it's clear that they sound like an amalgam of folk and metal. The folk music is everywhere, all sorts of ethnic sounds whirling around in a mix that's all them. It's primarily folk music from the Carpathian mountains, but that doesn't mean a single sound. The harmonising vocals towards the end of O, Romaniţa may come closest to what a non-Romanian like me might think traditional music in the Carpathians might sound like, but that is merely one string to their Romanian bow.

There's wild and wacky carnival jazz on the intro, Mioretic Metal, that could accompany a Looney Toons cartoon. Doi kicks off with flutes and hand drums and it finds a neat combination of jagged rhythms and accordion groove. Călăuză matches prowling bass with gypsy dance music. There's a humming duet to kick off O, Romaniţa and it soon trawls in middle eastern rhythms and melodies, on both violin and drums. The intertwining vocals of male vocalist Andrei Oltean and female vocalist Roxana Amarandi late in the song is fascinating. And that's just the first four songs. E-an-na have no interest of skimping on this diversity as the album runs on.

While there's more folk than metal, there's a lot of metal here. It's there on Mioretic Metal, as it ought to be. The end of Călăuză is furious. Ies is heavy from the outset, like the roof has fallen onto us and the band carry on playing while we collectively hold that weight above them. 'colo 'mbia is crunchy guitars and hardcore shouts, surprising given that all the vocals have been clean thus far. It's arguaby alternative metal, even though it drifts into an extended accordion solo later on. Parts of the second halves of Fântânile de la Capătul Lumii and Floare de Fier are utterly crushing, even if they're accompanied by acoustic guitars or flutes. Suit în Nor could often be called nu metal.

All this is par for the course for this band, I should add. When you think you know what's going on, they turn on a dime and that's emphatically what I like most about E-an-na. I didn't hear anything here that fascinated me as much as the double whammy of Pielea and Pânda on Nesfârşite, but I'd only be disappointed if they didn't include new things that I haven't heard before and they happily delivered there. Biba sounds like someone playing the wires inside a piano, accompanied by some ruthlessly mechanical vocal rhythms. The final forty seconds are absolutely glorious but the entire song is fascinating.

Oddly, my favourite songs are in between the extremes. Mioritic Metal and Cenuşiu are gleefully lively, leaping around like a hummingbird on acid. At points, it's electronica. At points, it's metal. At points, it's a whole slew of things. Ironically, Cenuşiu translates to Grey, which this song utterly isn't. Floare de Fier is another bouncy one and a heavy one too, with chunky guitar and earworms of melodies. I also dug a couple of songs that are almost routine for this band, as surprising as it got for me. Fagure Negru has a gorgeous post-punk groove to it and Dulce is smooth as well, as it ought to be with a title that translates to Sweet.

So this may not have the peaks of Nesfârşite, but it's another fascinating album from a fascinating band. There are precious few bands on the planet who can keep their listeners guessing this much without losing the plot and E-an-na know exactly what they're doing. Roll on the next album!

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